ROUNDUP - A new business called The Fat Straw opened this month in Roundup, offering the community a variety of drinks, including some that feature Taiwanese-based boba tea.
It would be very easy to drive down Main Street in Roundup without noticing the town's newest business. The Fat Straw, which opened about two weeks ago, is located in a 247-square-foot building at 744 Main St.
While it doesn't look like much from the outside, step inside, and you'll find owner Stephanie Graben hard at work making delicious refreshments for her customers.
"We just figured it would be something fun in Roundup for everyone to enjoy," Graben said.
Graben's reasoning for starting the business might seem simple, but the story behind it is much more complicated.
Graben and her husband first moved to Roundup from California to be closer to her family and live somewhere quieter. The only problem with the move was that they missed enjoying boba tea — a Taiwanese drink that has tapioca balls at the bottom of the cup.
"We just love it," Graben said. "I love it. My husband loves it. Our son loves it. When we got here, it was really hard to find, and so I said, "I'm going to make it. I'm going to figure out how to make it."
Graben began cooking the tapioca balls at home, adding her own flavor to the different batches. According to her, the process is delicate. Overcooking the balls can mess up the texture, while undercooking them chewy and less appetizing. Graben said it's a thin line to walk, and mastering the process took years.
"I'd say it took two or three years to get the right syrup, the right consistency, and everything to where I wanted it to be," Graben said.
Once Graben had the recipe she was proud of, she began making it more and more often. Whether it was for friends or family, everyone who tried it loved it.
"I actually offered it at a farmers' market here one year and people really enjoyed it," Graben said. "I didn't do it the next year, and people were actually upset with me for not making it. I think that's when I realized this business could maybe be possible."
And that's when Graben started making moves to find her own spot. The building she found is small, but she said it offers everything they need.
"It isn't a big building, that's for sure," Graben said. "But to be honest, we have everything we need. We're pushing out a lot of drinks every day and even selling out of some stuff."
Customers like Celine McClanahan couldn't be more thrilled.
"I think it's the coolest thing because I had never even heard of it before it came to Roundup," McClanahan said. "It's such a small town for something like this to come is huge."
McClanahan said the final product is delicious and that the convenience makes it even better.
"So, the fact that it's here and you can come in and you can get a drink and then be on your way is amazing," McClanahan said. "It's like, very fairly priced, which is really nice, especially with where we're at because it's so remote."
And Graben said that McClanahan's reaction is exactly what she was looking for when she created the business — hoping to bring a taste of Taiwan halfway across the world to Montana.
“We put something different in Roundup," Graben said. "To give people a reason to stop here and give the community another reason to love being here. We have a lot of great things here and this is just one of them."